BBC bosses 'far from united' on appointment of ex-editor of HuffPost

BBC bosses are ‘far from united’ on appointment of ex-editor of left-wing Huffington Post to top job amid political row over appointment

  • Sir Robbie Gibb has allegedly tried to stop Jess Brammar from being appointed 
  • He claimed appointment to executive news editor would ‘shatter’ No10 relations
  • Sources alleged bosses at Broadcasting House are ‘far from united’ on matter 

BBC chiefs are ‘far from united’ on the move to appoint ex-Huffington Post editor Jess Brammar to the BBC amid a political row over the decision, a source says.

The BBC is understood to be reviewing Ms Brammar’s social media after it was warned her appointment as executive news editor would ‘shatter’ their relationship with Downing Street.

Sir Robbie Gibb, Theresa May’s former aide, attempted to stop Ms Brammar from being handed the key editorial role as he felt it would damage No 10’s trust in the BBC, the Financial Times reported. 

The BBC said yesterday that ‘no recruitment process has been blocked’. 

However, sources told the Sunday Times that bosses at the Broadcasting House are ‘far from united’ over the controversy, adding that ‘other dynamics remain at play.’

They also alleged that some employees have complained were ‘effectively told not to apply’ for the role.

BBC chiefs are ‘far from united’ on the move to appoint ex-Huffington Post editor Jess Brammar (above) to the BBC amid a political row over the decision, a source says 

It is claimed that Sir Robbie (pictured in May 2019), an ex-senior BBC journalist and editorial advisor to GB News, had sent a text message to BBC director for news and current affairs Fran Unsworth saying she ‘cannot make this appointment’

While head of HuffPost, Ms Brammar pushed the site’s left of centre views on Brexit, the Black Lives Matter movement and Meghan Markle, and clashed with equalities minister Kemi Badenoch.  

Her tweets from the last few years on those subjects have since been deleted. 

She left HuffPost earlier this year after the site made most of its UK-based reporters redundant after it was taken over by Buzzfeed. 

Ms Brammar is now being considered for a role ‘overseeing output on the public service broadcaster’s domestic and global news channels’.

Following Gibb’s alleged intervention, Labour has written to BBC bosses demanding they tell him to resign from his role at Broadcasting House. 

Deputy leader Angela Rayner wrote to chairman Richard Sharp and director-general Tim Davie to call for the resignation of Gibb from the board.

Ms Rayner said the claims go ‘to the core of both operational and governance matters for the BBC’.

Her letter said: ‘Putting pressure on the recruitment process of staff is entirely outside of the remit of the board and a total abuse of position.’

However, a BBC spokesman said ‘as a general principle, board members are able to discuss issues with other board members or senior executives’.

Ms Rayner’s letter said: ‘I cannot believe that a BBC board chair could ever allow a director to act in this way and stay in post. I hope, therefore, that Robbie Gibb’s actions were news to you.

It comes at a time when the broadcaster’s director-general Tim Davie (pictured in Glasgow in February this year) has attempted to address concerns over its impartiality

‘I expect that you will now ask him to resign his position and investigate how this happened.’

Allies of Gibb claim he only intervened after he learned of internal dissatisfaction with the alleged decision to appoint Ms Brammar.     

Ms Rayner called for the release of minutes and other correspondence relating to Gibb’s appointment, and for an explanation over whether his links to the Conservative Party were properly taken into consideration.

She said: ‘Non-executive directors are supposed to be committed to delivering the mission of the BBC, not wielding political influence or lobbying on behalf of the Government on staff appointments.’ 

Jo Stevens, Labour’s shadow digital, culture, media and sport secretary, has also urged Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to join calls for Gibb to resign. 

The FT claims that Gibb, an ex-senior BBC journalist and editorial advisor to GB News, had sent a text message to BBC director for news and current affairs Fran Unsworth saying she ‘cannot make this appointment’ and that the government’s ‘fragile trust in the BBC will be shattered’ if she did. 

It comes at a time when the broadcaster’s director-general Tim Davie has attempted to address concerns over its impartiality.

Ms Stevens said: ‘These allegations raise very serious questions about Conservative cronyism at the heart of the BBC.

‘If Robbie Gibb is in post to further Tory interests rather than the public interest, then he is in the wrong job. Oliver Dowden must join the calls for him to resign or the BBC must sack him immediately for the sake of its own integrity.’   

The Sunday Times claims Mr Dowden is refusing to become involved at this stage.   

Gibb did not respond to requests for comment yesterday but The Independent newspaper said he had referred the outlet to the BBC’s statement on the matter.

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘We will respond to the letter in due course. As the BBC has set out, we do not comment on ongoing recruitment processes – which are the responsibility of the executive.

Labour’s shadow digital, culture, media and sport secretary, said: ‘These allegations raise very serious questions about Conservative cronyism at the heart of the BBC’ (file photo)

‘For absolute clarity, no recruitment process has been blocked.

‘The responsibility for staff appointments rests with the executive, not the BBC board. Board members are able to discuss issues with other board members; they are also able to raise issues with senior executives.

‘It is essential that board members can debate and discuss issues. They have an absolute right to do so and it is fully consistent with having a unitary board. What individual board members can’t do is make decisions which are for the executive. That hasn’t happened. Good governance principles were adhered to.

‘As we have clearly stated, the outcome of this specific recruitment process will be announced in due course.

‘The letter raises a number of issues around Robbie Gibb’s appointment to the BBC board. Non-executive members for the nations (such as Robbie Gibb) are appointed by order-in-council on the recommendation of the UK Government, not the BBC’s nominations committee.

‘Robbie Gibb has no role advising the Government and he stepped down from the Government’s PSB (public service broadcasting) panel when he took up the role at the BBC.’ 

MailOnline has contacted the BBC for comment on the latest claims. 

Sir Robbie, who is now a senior communications adviser at Kekst CNC and director of the Jewish Chronicle newspaper, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

His brother Nick Gibb is Conservative MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton and minister for school standards.     


While head of HuffPost, Ms Brammar pushed the site’s left-of-centre views on Brexit, the Black Lives Matter movement and Meghan Markle and clashed with equalities minister Kemi Badenoch.

Earlier this year, Ms Brammar was among the left-wing newspaper editors who drove the Society of Editors executive director, Ian Murray, out of his job for speaking against Megan Markle’s claims that the British press is systematically racist.

Mr Murray issued a statement defending all the Society’s members against the accusations and underlining newspapers’ duty to hold the rich and powerful to account.

He said the couple’s claims were ‘not acceptable’ without supporting evidence, insisting that the UK Press was not racist.

But within hours a backlash emerged with over 236 BAME journalists signing a letter condemning the statement.

The editors of the Daily Mirror, Guardian, Financial Times, Evening Standard and HuffPost UK also publicly criticised the statement.

Ms Brammar, who was editor-in-chief of HuffPost UK at the time, told MailOnline: ‘The Society of Editors claimed to speak for the UK journalism industry.

‘I think what’s crucial to remember is that our industry includes people who are from minorities that have not been treated well by aspects of the Press.

‘This was not just about journalists who could see that the Society of Editors’ statement was factually incorrect calling that out, it was also about supporting our colleagues within our own industry who are impacted by that bigotry. 

‘We can’t pretend to be surprised about the lack of diversity in our newsrooms when we aren’t addressing this.’

Conservative MP Sir Desmond Swayne said at the time that Mr Murray’s exit highlighted concerns about the growing ‘cancel culture’ in Britain and that the UK was in a situation which is ‘very dangerous for free speech.

Ms Brammar also became embroiled in a row with No 10 over equalities minister Kemi Badenoch in February.

Ms Badenoch was widely criticised for accusing Nadine White of ‘creepy and bizarre’ behaviour after the HuffPost reporter sent a standard request for comment to a Government press office.

Ms White had asked a Government press office why the Equalities Minister had not appeared in a video targeted at minority groups to promote the Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

Ms Badenoch subsequently tweeted that HuffPost had sought to ‘sow distrust by making up claims I refused to take part in a video campaign’ and said it was ‘creepy and bizarre to fixate on who didn’t participate in a video and demand they explain themselves’.

She also shared screenshots of two emails sent by Ms White to the department. 

Ms Brammar made a complaint to the Cabinet Office about Ms Badenoch’s conduct, asking for an apology and for the allegations to be withdrawn. 

She also tweeted: ‘You will note that, contrary to your claim we were spreading disinformation, we have not published this story without your response.

‘I totally refute the claim it is ‘creepy and bizarre’ to ask questions of a government minister, and Nadine was doing her job in asking them.’

Ms Brammar later added that she stood by Ms White, and said the journalist had to make her Twitter profile private after the screenshots were shared.  

Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm responded to the formal complaint from HuffPost by saying Ms Badenoch was responsible for her own conduct on her social media account.

‘I note that the tweets were not issued from a government Twitter account, but instead from a personal Twitter account,’ his letter said.

Despite sharing her left-of-centre views on a number of topics, it has been claimed that Ms Brammar has now deleted her tweets from the last 12 years, leaving just a month’s worth of content on her feed.

A tweet read: ‘Why would a prolific tweeter like delete 12 years of tweets with all her insights on Brexit, Boris and current affairs? 

‘We now only have 30 days of anodyne tweets with barely a mention of politics. Fancy that.’

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